Critical week ahead for Cyprus

7 January 2017
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Authorities in both Greece and Cyprus sought to give positive signals over the weekend about the prospects for a resolution to the longstanding division of the island ahead of a landmark multiparty summit scheduled to take place on Thursday in Geneva even though the meeting is expected to launch an open-ended procedure that could last for weeks or even months.

Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci are already in Geneva ahead of Thursday’s meeting and are expected to produce maps showcasing their intentions by the eve of the multiparty summit. The aim is for those maps to define each leader’s vision of the future boundaries in a united federal system comprising two states.

A realistic goal, sources indicated over the weekend, is for all sides to record some progress and further convergence to ensure that the latest United Nations-buffered effort at reunifying the island does not collapse like those that have gone before it. Foreign diplomats are said to be pressing for a quick conclusion of the current negotiations so that referendums can be held in Cyprus and in the Turkish-occupied north of the island by summer.

But experts say the prospects for a breakthrough are slim. The aggressive stance of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan domestically has been a concern in both Athens and Nicosia though the sense has been that he will not make any rash moves vis-a-vis Cyprus.

British diplomatic sources with knowledge of the negotiations meanwhile believe that Erdogan is so strong on the domestic level that he would be able to take a bold initiative on Cyprus.

Commenting during a visit to New York at the end of last week, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias said that Athens had not shifted its position on the Cyprus problem. “Greece always supported and continues to support Cyprus to the end with the main criterion being the interests of Cyprus itself and the Cypriot people,” he said. He repeated Greece’s opposition to the presence of guarantor powers and an occupying army in northern Cyprus.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was briefing European officials on Greece’s stance on Cyprus over the weekend when it remained unclear whether he will attend the Geneva talks.

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